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Publishers Weekly talks with Suzanne La Rosa on South Carolina book defunding controversy

Thursday, April 17th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Publishers Weekly quoted NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa in a recent article about the South Carolina state house’s controversial decision to cut funding to two schools that assign books with gay and lesbian characters to their freshmen. The University of South Carolina Upstate assigns their students Out Low: The Best of Rainbow Radio, edited by Ed Madden and Candace Chellew-Hodge, and the College of Charleston assigns their students the novel Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

The South Carolina state house cut almost $70,000 in funding from the schools, citing separately to Publishers Weekly issues with books that promote “the gay and lesbian lifestyle.”

“I believe it’s important to publish on these topics,” La Rosa told Publishers Weekly reporter Paige Crutcher. “This is shameful, hurtful, punitive behavior on the part of the state of South Carolina. Sadly, it’s also curiously revealing about the role the state believes it has to play in the life of its academic community.”

In their conversation, La Rosa told Crutcher, “To the degree that we can better educate people to be compassionate and not to fear ‘the other,’ then we will succeed in creating a society more hospitable to and accepting of the value of books like these in question. That is, after all, our mission as publishers. Keep in mind: Even legislators are not beyond redemption.”

NewSouth plans to release a book of Southern-themed LGBT coming-out stories in 2015, tentatively titled Crooked Letter I and edited by Connie Griffin.

Read “Booksellers and Publishers React to the Defunding of S.C. Universities” at the Publishers Weekly website.

Eugene Bullard featured in Washington Post “Flashbacks” comic strip

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

Eugene Bullard: World's First Black Fighter Pilot by Larry GreenlyThe Washington Post “Flashbacks” comic strip, created by Patrick Reynolds, recently featured in a series on World War I aviation hero Eugene Bullard. Strip artist Reynolds cites a new biography published by NewSouth Books — Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot by Larry Greenly — as inspiration for his series. The strip tells the story of the boy who ran away from his home in the segregated South and made his way to Europe. Bullard’s varied career, from prize fighter in England through entertainer in France to Legionnaire and then pioneering fighter pilot, is compellingly recounted.

Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot is the first biography of the war hero written for young adult readers. Booklist praises the title in a starred review, saying “Greenly crafts a moving, novelistic biography that portrays Bullard’s undying fortitude throughout his life.” Kirkus Reviews calls the book “a worthwhile introduction to a decorated hero of two world wars who overcame obstacles in difficult times.”

Eugene Bullard: World’s First Black Fighter Pilot is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon or your favorite bookstore.

The original artwork and signed prints from the comic strip are available for sale at Red Rose Studio.

Weather Channel interviews Dan Haulman on Tuskegee Weather Detachment

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by Brian Seidman

The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949 by Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels and Daniel HaulmanIn a segment recently featured on The Weather Channel, reporter Paul Goodloe interviewed author and Tuskegee Airmen historian Daniel Haulman about the less-well-known Tuskegee Weather Detachment. Haulman is one of the co-authors of The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949, as well as other books on the Airmen.

Haulman told The Weather Channel that among the duties of the African American detachment was “not only determine what the weather was like at the base and help make sure that the operations at the base were consistent with what the weather allowed, but also helped prepare for the missions. They had to know what the weather was going to be like on the way and what the weather was going to be like on the way back.”

The men who made up the detachment, Goodloe said, had been trained in meteorology and selected for their leadership qualities. Among them was Charles Edward Anderson, who went on to become the first African American to receive a PhD, in meteorology.

“The weather officers,” Haulman said, “like the [Tuskegee Airmen], really were pioneers, because just as the pilots demonstrated that black men could fly military aircraft in combat just as well as the white pilots, the weather officers demonstrated they could perform the meteorological tasks they were called on to do as well as the white officers.”

Watch the full report on the Tuskegee Weather Detachment at the Weather Channel website.

Daniel Haulman is co-author of The Tuskegee Airmen, An Illustrated History: 1939-1949, available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Other books on the Tuskegee Airmen by Daniel Haulman include Eleven Myths About the Tuskegee Airmen, The Tuskegee Airmen and the “Never Lost a Bomber” Myth, and What Hollywood Got Right and Wrong about the Tuskegee Airmen in the Great New Movie, Red Tails.

Child welfare advocate Denny Abbott tours with new book

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

They Had No Voice by Denny AbbottNationally recognized child welfare advocate Denny Abbott brought his story of creating positive change in the juvenile detention system to the campuses of Troy University recently in a series of lectures sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation. Abbott spoke in Troy, Montgomery, and Dothan about his work on behalf of exploited children, and signed copies of his book They Had No Voice: My Fight for Alabama’s Forgotten Children.

They Had No Voice chronicles Abbott’s journey from chief probation officer of the Montgomery, Alabama County Family Court to leading advocate for children. As a court official, Abbott witnessed brutal conditions. When he could not change things from within, he sued the state and with the help of the U.S. Justice Department won a resounding victory that brought change. His talks at Troy focused on how others can continue to advocate for improvements.

According to the Dothan Eagle, Abbott focused part of his presentation on the continuing need to monitor workers who are in contact with children, saying:

“The more serious issues are those that have been festering for a long time and nobody’s really taken it on or done anything about it, either for political reasons or for personal reasons or business reasons,” he said.

He recognized the ongoing issues in Alabama, and although “hundreds of people knew about it, nobody did anything about it.”

He said employees at facilities need to be held accountable if they don’t do their job of protecting and taking care of children. “We see many, many cases where they are the offenders,” he said.

WSFA News in Montgomery spoke with a a former Juvenile Detention Center resident, who told them:

“I could barely lay down. I couldn’t eat because they wouldn’t feed ya once they beat ya. They punish you, you don’t eat either. It was horrible. It was horrible. Mr. Denny thank you, thank you.”

Through his presentations, Denny Abbott continues to educate citizens about how they can create positive change in their communities to help mistreated children.

Denny Abbott’s They Had No Voice: My Fight for Alabama’s Forgotten Children is available in print and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Play based on award-winning YA novel A Yellow Watermelon to premiere

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 by Lisa Harrison

A Yellow Watermelon by Ted Dunagan

The town of Coffeeville, Alabama, and the Grove Hill Arts Council are joining forces on a project to restore the old Coffeeville School for community use. In so doing, they will recognize one of the school’s most famous students, Ted M. Dunagan.

Ted Dunagan is the author of three award-winning young adult novels set in that area during the late 1940s, published by NewSouth Books. A stage play based on his first novel, A Yellow Watermelon, premieres Friday, March 7 at 11am and Saturday, March 8 at 7pm at the old Coffeeville high school auditorium.

“A Yellow Watermelon: A Play in Two Acts” has been written by Cathi Gunter, a local playwright. The idea for the project was inspired by the play based on the Harper Lee classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, presented annually in the nearby town of Monroeville, Alabama. Sponsors of the project include Town of Coffeeville, Grove Hill Arts Council, Arts Council of Thomasville, and Lewis Pest Control.

The first performance of “A Yellow Watermelon” will be attended by Clarke County middle schoolers, who will also compete in an essay contest about the novel on which the play is based. Author Ted Dunagan will participate in a Q&A session after the morning performance and present the writing awards.

A second performance of the play will be staged for the general public on Saturday evening, March 8, at 7pm. All are welcome.

Prior to the Saturday performance, at 5pm, the town of Coffeeville will host a reception honoring Mr. Dunagan.

The Clarke County Democrat featured news of the play on its front page recently (click image for larger view).

The Clarke County Democrat features Ted Dunagan's A Yellow Watermelon on its front page

Mr. Dunagan has been an annual presenter at Wilson Hall Middle School in Grove Hill for the past five years, following the study of his books by the eighth grade. His novels include A Yellow Watermelon (2008), Secret of the Satilfa (2010), and Trouble on the Tombigbee (2011). A fourth, The Salvation of Miss Lucretia, is due out from NewSouth Books in March. About the play and activities planned, he says, “This is going to be an extraordinary event, made possible by a group of wonderful and resourceful people, taking place in a very special part of the world.”

A Yellow Watermelon tells the story of two boys, one white and one black; Ted and Poudlum are autobiographical. Their friendship, the adventures they share, and the way in which they deal with racial issues in the rural South of the 1940s have resonated with people of all ages. The book won for the author the Georgia Author of the Year Award. It was also recognized on the inaugural 25 Books Young Georgians Should Read list.

For tickets or information about the play, contact Cathi Gunter (cgunter1@bellsouth.net), Janee Parden (janeeparden@ymail.com), or the town of Coffeeville at 251-276-3266. Tickets are $15.

A Yellow Watermelon and Ted Dunagan’s other novels are available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Montgomery Advertiser, WTLS 1300 cover Forever Blue by Coach Bill Moseley

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by Savannah Szabo

Forever Blue by Bill Moseley“As a kid, on the local streets of Montgomery, on unpaved streets and fields nearby, every vacant lot we’d find — we’d make a football field out of it,” Bill Moseley told radio station 1300 WTLS Tallahassee about the beginnings of his love for playing and coaching football. Known for his leadership and motivational abilities on and off the field, Moseley’s book Forever Blue: The Memoirs of a Lanier High School and University of Kentucky Coach chronicles the 91-year-old’s rise from his high school playing days in Depression-era Montgomery, to serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces, to coaching at The University of Kentucky, and back again to his hometown roots coaching at his alma mater.

Moseley himself trained under Paul “Bear” Bryant, and worked with players including Bart Starr and Jim Wilson. If those he’s coached and mentored along the way are a testament to the life of a man, Moseley has accomplished quite a feat; instilled with the true Southern values of family, hard work, and love of country and football, Moseley’s life is surely worth reading about. The Montgomery Advertiser, Tallassee Times, and 1300 WTLS Tallahassee are all talking about Forever Blue, just as the Moseley’s players continue to talk about their “coach” 60 years later.

“Many of Moseley’s former players attributed their success in their lives and careers to the traits instilled in them by their coach,” observed the Montgomery Advertiser‘s Tim Gayle in a recent article on Forever Blue. Gayle joined Moseley at the bimonthly lunch he still has with some of his players. At the lunch, one of those former players, Richard Fulmer, told Gayle, “There are a lot of great athletes here right now that think the world of him. He coached us like he was our daddy. We played for Lanier, but we also played for Coach Moseley.”

Moseley and his son, Willie, who co-authored Forever Blue, also spoke with Michael Butler of 1300 WTLS in Tallahassee. Willie said he appreciated that the book contains “a lot of good family stuff.” “And that’s what kind of started the thing,” he continued. “My mother gave him a cassette recorder and wanted him to dictate his memoirs, and he never got around to it.”

“The gratifying thing,” Willie added, “is that six decades later, these kids still call him ‘Coach.’”

Butler also wrote about his conversation with Moseley for the Tallahassee Times. Butler spotlighted a conversation Moseley had with Bear Bryant when Moseley called to ask about re-joining the University of Kentucky team after Moseley’s stint in the Air Force. Moseley recalled, “[Bryant] said, ‘Get your butt home, get out, then get back up here as soon as you can, because we’ve got work to do.’” Moseley would go on to play two more years of college ball at UK and then collaborated with Bryant as a student coach. This account is just one of many that bear witness to Coach Bill Moseley’s ability to pursue his goals and lead by example not only on the field, but also from the the sidelines and at home.

Read more about Bill Moseley and Forever Blue from the Montgomery Advertiser, or listen to the 1300 WTLS interview online.

Forever Blue: The Memoirs of a Lanier High School and University of Kentucky Coach is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

John Pritchard talks Sailing to Alluvium, Junior Ray with Publishers Weekly

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

Sailing to Alluvium by John PritchardPublishers Weekly has just released a great Q&A with John Pritchard, author of the “Junior Ray” books and the newly released Sailing to Alluvium. PW Southern correspondent Paige Crutcher spoke with Pritchard about the publication of his third novel, becoming a first-time author at age 65, the Mississippi Delta as a character in his novels, and how he comes up with all of Junior Ray’s expletives.

Here’s a selection from the interview:

PW: You’ve said before that when you write Junior Ray, you listen to him. Does he talk to you even when you’re not working on a book?

Oh, yes. He will not stop. Indeed I have often said that I am his stenographer. Almost anything in daily life can be viewed through Junior Ray’s perspective. And his reactions are usually unpredictable–for instance, I hypothetically took him with me to a hypothetical political rally. There we were, behind the barricades on one side of the street, facing the opposition on the other. Be mindful that Junior Ray does not know the difference between a liberal and a conservative, nor does he really care. In any case there we were, and a woman quite near us raised her fist and shouted, “Get your hands out of my uterus!” Upon which, I suppose in the spirit of solidarity, Junior Ray shouted: “Mine, too, sumbich!”

PW: Would you say that setting, The Delta, is also a character in Sailing to Alluvium?

The question says it all because of course it is the place–the Mississippi Delta–with which I am most concerned. Thus, quite literally, that place stands sine qua non as the main character in all three of Junior Ray’s books. This Delta, which is Mississippi’s Yazoo basin, bounded on the east by the bluffs of the Loess Hills and on the west by the Mississippi River, is a paradoxical bowl of ravening eccentricity dominated by an insistence on conformity and is, therefore, a place which logically cannot exist. But Deltans have never let logic stand in their way.

In short, more than race, class was paramount, and that issue is at the heart of Junior Ray’s narrational perspective. But certainly one of the great shapers of that odd land’s persona, its speech along with its food, its customs, its music, and possibly its whole way of looking at things, is in the largest of measures derived from the indisputable influence of the Delta’s African-American majority, without whom there would have been no story at all worth telling.

PW: Junior Ray was born with a mouthful of expletives, but how much of Junior Ray is in John Pritchard?

I normally do not cuss as much, except when the computer goes haywire or I can’t get the lug nuts loosened on the wheel of the car. Then I find profanity useful and, I am convinced, effective. Mainly, though, I am highly entertained by Junior Ray. He often speaks in imagistic tropes that remind me of a wonderful friend I had when I was in the Army. … His speech was colorful–intensely so, as I mentioned, and original but it was not at all that profane–“Lieutenant, I was stannin there with my tongue hangin out like a red necktie–red as a fox’s ass in poke berry time!”–and his sparkling, Zorban delight in living made an indelible impression on me …

Read “Junior Ray Returns: Q&A with John Pritchard” in full at the Publishers Weekly website.

John Pritchard’s Sailing to Alluvium is available now in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore. His previous “Junior Ray” books, Junior Ray and The Yazoo Blues, are also available. Follow Junior Ray himself on Twitter at @JuniorRaybook.

On MLK’s Holiday, a Few Words About the Poor

Monday, January 20th, 2014 by Randall Williams

Today is the MLK holiday, although in Alabama the adoption of the holiday passed the legislature only by designating it as also being in honor of the birth of Robert E. Lee, who coincidentally shares the same birth week as King, so that white state workers taking the day off didn’t have to do so in tribute to civil rights.

Setting aside that head-in-the-sand Alabama political posturing, it is MLK Day, which means it’s a good day to remember that though MLK is rightly celebrated as a leader of the movement which broke the back of legalized segregation, toward the end of his life he was mostly campaigning to end economic injustice and war (at the time, in Vietnam). And while the civil rights movement was relatively straightforward — Jim Crow laws were an obvious evil — and gained the support of government, business, and, for the most part, the public, the same support was not forthcoming for anti-poverty and anti-war efforts.

For one thing, poverty and war have complex causes that are not easy to identify, much less target. For another, while changes in the U.S. economy and infrastructure had largely eliminated the economic benefits to white Southerners of first slavery and then segregation, there remained/remain powerful interests who profited from poverty and war.

The poverty part of that profit equation is hard for some to swallow, though I believe the case can be made. Consider the hugely profitable low-end loan, check cashing, rent-to-own furniture, etc., businesses that prey on the poor. Consider the prison-industrial complex that has expanded alongside the increased incarceration rates of the poor. Consider the increased numbers of well-paid and well-pensioned judges, prosecutors, police, and support personnel, and all the suppliers and manufacturers of their furnishings and consumables needed to keep a lid clamped on the “criminal” poor.

The military part of the profit equation is more obvious; even President Dwight D. Eisenhower, our last five-star commander in chief, famously warned of this danger, but we just keep spending and spending.

But back to the poor, and the impetus for my taking up your time today …

The NYT has recently been running a good series, “The Great Divide,” about the country’s return to Gilded Age levels of income inequality. Reading the NYT this morning, I was struck by today’s entry about the results of a study by an epidemiologist examining linkage between poverty and mental health. Her conclusions seem to indicate that — surprise — giving poor people money improves their lives and saves the taxpayers money. I suppose this is the academic equivalent of the folk wisdom that money can’t buy happiness, but the absence of money does buy misery. And the societal costs of misery are high.

As Congress dithers on extending benefits for the long-term unemployed, and is likely to pass a Farm Bill that will further cut food stamps even while subsidies continue to agribusiness, it seems a good time to think about policies that might actually help the poor and the country.

Bob Zellner talks to Bill Moyers about North Carolina Moral Mondays

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by Brian Seidman

The Wrong Side of Murder Creek by Bob ZellnerA recent episode of Moyers & Company, hosted by political commentator Bill Moyers, featured the current “state of conflict” in North Carolina. The state has a Republican-controlled legislature that is “steering North Carolina to the right”; liberal groups, lead by the NAACP’s Reverend William Barber, have organized a series of “Moral Mondays” protests against the Republican’s new laws.

Participating in the “Moral Mondays” movement is civil rights activist Bob Zellner, whose memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek explores how he left behind a prejudiced upbringing to become the first white Southern field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Many of the “Moral Mondays” protesters have been arrested during the protests, including Zellner, 74.

Legislative changes that the group is protesting against include, according to the Moyers & Company website, “slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, providing vouchers to private schools, cutting unemployment benefits, refusing to expand Medicaid and rolling back electoral reforms, including voting rights.”

“Our purpose in life is to work for those who are powerless,” Zellner told Moyers & Company. “What’s happening now in the Moral Monday movement is on the same moral plane as what happened in the civil rights movement.”

Watch “State of Conflict: North Carolina” below or on the Moyers & Company website.

Bob Zellner’s memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement is available in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookstore.

Peter O’Toole remembered by Lawrence of Arabia assistant director Ibrahim Fawal

Friday, December 20th, 2013 by Brian Seidman

The Disinherited by Ibrahim FawalAuthor Ibrahim Fawal (On the Hills of God, The Disinherited), born in Ramallah, Palestine, worked with renowned director David Lean as the “Jordanian” first assistant director on the classic Lawrence of Arabia. He sent this remembrance of actor Peter O’Toole, who died this past month.

I am proud to say that I had a very friendly relationship with Peter O’Toole when I was working as the first assistant director on Lawrence of Arabia in the Jordanian desert in 1961. In fact, he and Omar Sharif promised to dance at my wedding, which was to take place right after production of the movie ended. Due to unforeseen circumstances and a delayed production schedule, they missed my wedding, but that did not prevent big crowds from jamming the streets and the church, expecting the two stars to be in attendance.

One of my most vivid memories of working with Peter O’Toole took place early one morning, when David Lean asked me to go find Peter, who was late for the shooting of a certain scene. When I found Peter, he was in his luxurious tent, getting dressed. I urged him to hurry up, as we were late for the first morning shot. As we walked out of the tent, into the desert, with the blue sky and miles and miles of utter tranquility around us, he was still buttoning his shirt. Suddenly, he stopped walking, and the next thing I knew he was raising his hands up toward the sky, shouting “Hey God, where are you?” Stunned by the sudden outburst, I asked what he was doing, but he kept looking up, repeating, “Where is He? Where is He?” It was a powerful moment, one that stayed in my subconscious for more than 40 years. It was later included as a scene in my book, The Disinherited.

What a magnificent opportunity to work with a legend like Peter O’Toole. Now he’s with his elusive God, at last.

The PEN Oakland award-winning On the Hills of God and its sequel The Disinherited, by Ibrhaim Fawal, are available in hardcover and ebook from your favorite bookstore.